Image: Reef ball is moved to seabed
Turks and Caicos Islands via AP
Buoys are used to move a reef ball to a seabed off Grand Turk island. Nearly 100 of the concrete orbs have been submerged in the area.
updated 12/8/2008 6:01:51 PM ET 2008-12-08T23:01:51

Nearly 100 concrete orbs have been submerged in shallow waters off Grand Turk island to encourage coral growth, shelter small fish and enhance snorkeling.

The hollow domes submerged in recent days have quickly attracted marine life off Governor's Beach, a popular stretch of coastline in Grand Turk, said Lucy Wells, a marine biologist who does reef restoration work for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

"The response from marine life was instantaneous," said Wells, who works for the Caribbean island chain's Environment and Coastal Resources Department.

In Turks and Caicos waters, shallow-water coral reefs have been harmed by pollution, overfishing and unusually high sea temperatures in 2005. But scientists say coral colonies off the British islands are in better shape than those of many neighboring islands.

In recent years, reef balls have been submerged in dozens of locations around the globe to help marine habitats.

Image: Reef balls on seabed
Turks and Caicos Islands via AP
A diver places sets a reef ball on a sandy seabed off Grand Turk island.
The newly submerged reef balls, anchored to the sandy seabed and weighing some 300 pounds each, have holes that create currents and circulate nutrients to marine life. Small fish can hide from predators inside the 2-foot wide, 3-foot tall spheres. Larval coral was placed on the rough exteriors.

Wells said half of the roughly $80,000 reef project was put up by Miami-based cruise operator Carnival Corp.

Other submerged concrete structures, shaped like layer cakes, provide crevices for lobsters and shellfish to live.

Researchers predict that as much as 60 percent of the world's coral could die by 2030 if ocean temperatures and pollution levels continue to inch upward. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to rising sea temperatures that are damaging the reefs.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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